Credit Valley Hospital cures tech pains with IP upgrade

In an attempt to address increased communication needs resulting from a massive expansion project, Credit Valley Hospital turned to technology to fill a widening IT personnel gap.

The Mississauga, Ont.-based hospital has implemented a single-vendor communications system to enhance Credit Valley’s voice and data systems, according to Leigh Popov, the hospital’s manager for technical infrastructure and planning.

“If you’re getting more demands for communication but you’re not getting anymore staff, then you have to be able to do more with less,” Popov said. “You have to simplify.”

Credit Valley recently embarked on a $300-million expansion program that doubled the hospital’s size and capacity. Currently, the hospital’s IT department supports the communication needs of 2,500 employees and over 300 physicians in two locations.

To support that growing requirement, Credit Valley has implemented Nortel’s communications technology, which includes an IP-based Ethernet core and local area network (LAN), said Popov.

“On top of that sits a wireless network which is also a Nortel product…it is designed and made to work well with our LAN, and is used to enable wireless communications within the whole campus and within any Credit Valley facility,” he added.

The hospital is also using Nortel’s voice systems, including wireless handsets, and three private exchange (PBX) systems, which are being used as call servers, Popov added.

He noted the servers are all completely VoIP-enabled, but run in hybrid modes.

“This means they will do both traditional TDM (time-division multiplexing) and VoIP,” Popov explained. “We do that for purposes of redundancy and reliability.”

Overall, the system allowed the hospital to improve the quality and reliability of its communications services, while reducing network complexity and costs, according to Popov.

Employee efficiency also improved. “Our clinicians absolutely depend on the mobility solution we put in place based on Nortel wireless LAN and voice handsets,” he said. “We’re helping them be more efficient and productive.”

He added that the integrated communications system enabled the IT department to provide a better level of service, and reduce operating costs.

“We’re saving $1,500 a month on T1 trunks between the two facilities, but that’s just a small fraction of what we’re actually saving,” he explained. “We just added 700 new sets, more than 800 new directory numbers, and 300,000 square feet of facility space, and we haven’t had to add even one more voice analyst or technician.”

A top-of-mind issue for the hospital is the protection and security of patient information, for which Popov said they have a multi-layered approach.

“We have policies in place, and we have an acceptable use policy in place for Internet access (for employees),” said Popov.

There are also e-mail and confidentiality policies that new employees sign upon commencing their employment at the hospital, he added.

“A degree of awareness is already there…we still do everything we can to try to build our systems and our networks as securely as possible because we can only rely on people and technology so much,” he said.

“We have a multi-layered approach where we try to rely on good policies, good staff knowledge and shared understanding, in addition to technology.”

Charles Salameh, vice-president of Nortel Global Solutions, said his company also provided the hospital some insights on implementing proper security and privacy protection, such as building virtual private networks, putting in the right encryption mechanisms, deploying firewalls, anti-spam, and URL filtering capabilities.

“It’s essentially building a virtual wall around the hospital, that’s the first level of defence,” said Salameh.

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